Yesterday was my father’s 66th birthday. It is the second birthday I’ve had without him alive. Last year it was just a week after his passing so the impact of it was buffered by the impact of shock that comes with grief. There is a delayed response to grief I can’t quite articulate, but if you’ve experienced it you know what I mean. It felt appropriate today to talk about the extravagance of God’s love as it has been my source of comfort this last year. I have needed it as the gravity of the loss of my father’s presence for the remainder of my life has begun to set in. I can feel the undiluted grief, which is a great sign shock has worn off and I am finally processing all that the last five years have done to shape me and my family. The hard part is processing a loss like this is not linear or rational. The driven and performance motivated side of my character hates this. That is why I am so grateful I have my heavenly father beside me. It is intimidating on my own to walk through this but as I was reading this scripture below I had a sense of overwhelming peace. I hope it brings you the same if you or someone close to you is facing a challenge, sickness, loss, or broken heart. Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He did not love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Eph 5:1-2 (MSG)
I have spent most of my life feeling the pull to perform to validate my value or earn love. If I can accomplish X, Y, and Z thing then I’ll feel worthy and others will love me for it. It does not work that way though does it? The more I accomplished, the more I strain toward earning accolades, material possessions, and status instead of feeling more validated in my worth I feel more and more empty. The more I seek God the more the futility of this endeavor is revealed. I have so much to learn and the scandalous grace of God overwhelms me. And rightly so, it is beyond all our capacity to understand.
Even with all the challenges my family faced in the 5 years my father was paralyzed, I see how God has used it to help me unravel from this addiction to performance. It was something I could control and go to any time I felt my world around me was out of control. But when you face life or death situations on the regular you see the cracks in this system. The wheels begin to fly off and you are left powerless and questioning. I am grateful every day for the fact that God heard my cry for love. As He often does our God so extravagantly loved me that he reached out a placed me in a church that provided me the encouragement, love, hope, and faith I did not even know I needed.
This verse illustrates better than I what I have experienced in this last year. As I’ve looked at the model of Jesus and how he lived from a place of fulfillment rather than striving. It’s a simple model at first glance. LOVE. Christ is Love. Use His life as an example. Even before Jesus began his ministry God declared His love and acceptance of Him. God said “This is my son in whom I well pleased.” It was not His sacrifice, His miracles, His ministry or any of it, but simply the fact that Jesus belonged to the creator that made Him valuable. I think God is showing us that even with Jesus affirmation and love came regardless of performance.
But it goes even further, this love was not just enough to get by or to accomplish the mission. It was not cautious but extravagant. Literally meaning going beyond what is deserved or justifiable, excessively high. Think about that for a second. God sent HIS ONLY, that is extravagant in and of itself but Christ goes even further and loves us extravagantly while here this side of heaven. He did not just go to die on the cross living in obscurity up till that point, but went out ministered, taught, healed, and most of all loved extravagantly by laying on a cross willingly for each of us. It is more than we deserve or can be justified, but it is the reality. Are you starting to get it?
Extravagant love came at an excessively high price, one Jesus paid. It was not to just hit the mark but to far surpass it. For each and every one of us. Because of this excess this extravagance we have enough to live our lives just the same. Love like HIM. That is what this life is about. As we press toward the prize we have already been given, bringing others along in this journey with us, we actually must cast off all that hinders us from loving like this. It is costly. It will cost your life. But it will also make your life.
As I remember who my father was, let go again of the vision of a life that could have been, and pick up the unearned and undeserved extravagant love of Jesus I can’t help but smile even in the midst of grief. It fills me with hope and the desire to dream again. This time BIGGER, BOLDER, and with the overflow of the extravagant love of my heavenly father. It is not to discount the pain, but actually what gives the pain a purpose. This life is not as I planned and I actually am grateful it is not. It has been harder and more challenging yes, but as I choose to look at the example of Christ in the bible, and the evidence in my own life I see the limits have fallen off. This life is and will be far better than I could have ever imagined. Now is the time to step out and love extravagantly, adventure awaits.